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Australian wildlife experts on Thursday rescued 32 of the 230 pilot whales found in a mysterious mass stranding off the coast of Tasmania a day earlier.
The whale pod was stranded on Ocean Beach in Macquarie Harbor on Wednesday, with at least half the whales believed to be alive at the time, Tasmania’s Department for Natural Resources and Environment had said.
As of Thursday morning, marine rescue teams found only 35 of the whales survived the night, said Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service manager Brendon Clark.
“Of the 35 that were alive this morning, we managed to resuscitate, rescue and release 32 of these animals and that’s a great result,” Clark told reporters in the nearby late Thursday Strahan.
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“We have three alive at the far north end of Ocean Beach, but due to access restrictions, primarily tidal influences, we simply could not safely reach these three animals today. But they will be our priority tomorrow morning,” Clark added.
The mass stranding comes exactly two years to the day after about 470 long-finned pilot whales were found on sandbars in the same harbor that has a notoriously shallow and dangerous channel known as Hell’s Gate. After a week of efforts, 111 of these whales were rescued but the rest died.
It also comes two days after the carcasses of 14 young male sperm whales were found on King Island, part of the state of Tasmania, in the Bass Strait between Melbourne and the north coast of Tasmania.
Marine life experts said it was too early to say why the stranding happened.
“These mass strandings are usually the result of accidental landings, and there are a variety of reasons,” said Kris Carlyon, biologist with the Marine Conservation Program.
Carlyon said the dead whales were being tested to see if there were any toxins in their systems that could explain the tragedy.
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The pilot whale often travels in groups and has been known to be stranded en masse for reasons that are still unclear, according to the NOAA fishery.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.